Archive for Agosto, 2013



My tongue moved, a swung relaxing hinge.

I said to her, “What will become of us?”

And as forgotten water in a well might skake

at an explosion under morning


Or a crack run up a gable,

She began to speak.

“I think our very form is bound to change.

Dogs in a siege. Saurian relapses. Pismires.


Unless forgiveness finds it nerve and voice,

Unless the helmeted and bleeding tree

Can green and open buds like infants’ fists

And the fouled magma incubate

Bright nymphs… My people think money
And talk weather. Oil rigs lull their future
On single acquisitive stems. Silence
Has shoaled into the trawlers’ echo-sounders.

The ground we kept our ear to for so long
Is flayed or calloused, and its entrails
Tented by an impious augury.
Our island is full of comfortless noises.”

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Brandon Smith

In 1964, the U.S. had for years been involved in covert operations in Vietnam designed to destabilize the North Vietnamese leadership and goad them into attacking American and South Vietnamese targets. On August 4th, U.S. naval authorities reported one of two recent “torpedo attacks” in the Gulf of Tonkin, torpedo attacks which were later admitted to be entirely faked in order to provide pretext for an open American invasion.

While Lyndon Johnson was declaring a “police action” in the region (essentially a war declared without the authority of Congress) CIA Station Chief Peer DeSilva was organizing Vietnam operations around a new strategy called “counter-terrorism”. This strategy held that terrorism, used in the hands of “the good-guys”, was not only acceptable, but necessary in order to undermine the support structures of the enemy. CIA counter-terror units were formed using mostly South Vietnamese nationals as well as men from surrounding countries. These hit teams, called Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRU’s) were coordinated and led by U.S. special operations officers and CIA liaisons under the umbrella of ICEX – the Intelligence Coordination and Exploitation Program, meant to create perfect information sharing and centralization between various teams.  The entire horrifying edifice would eventually be called “The Phoenix Program”:


The Phoenix Program is defended to this day by the CIA as nothing more than a practical counter-insurgency methodology meant to win the war faster, and with fewer casualties:


In fact, some in the mainstream still argue that Phoenix tactics should be used in Afghanistan and Iraq:


But Phoenix went far beyond aspirations of “winning” in Vietnam. The program utilized a “by any means necessary” strategy to warfare that included the use of random assassination and the FABRICATION of enemy atrocities in order to rally the civilian population around U.S. forces. PRU operators routinely targeted the backwater villages of Vietnam, killing at least 20,000 civilians as later admitted by CIA Director William Colby, and 40,000 civilians as estimated by the South Vietnamese Government. The slaughter of villages was frequently blamed on the Vietcong, while PRU’s ran rampant in the jungles, physically mutilating victims in order to draw greater emotional reactions from Southern citizens as well as oblivious Americans back home.

All of this took place under the close supervision of the CIA. Torture was often applied in CIA substations with high tech security. CIA officers carefully selected PRU troops, specifically seeking out ARVN deserters, VC traitors, and South Vietnamese criminals looking for a reduction in their prison sentences. The CIA planned and mapped operations, including death squad operations. They created teams of monsters and unleashed them upon Vietnam, not just to win against the North, but to create the illusion that the U.S. military presence was justified.

Skip ahead about 20 years…

The same exact theater was used in the 1980’s by the CIA in El Salvador. Militants and fascist political leaders, including El Salvadorian dictator-by-election-fraud Roberto D’Aubuission, trained at the Fort Benning, Georgia’s “School of the Americas” (also known as the School of the Assassins) where they learned the same “counter-terror” methods used during the Phoenix Program. This resulted in the formation of the Mano Blanco (the White Hand), a network of ruthless death squads utilized against Salvadorian citizens, killing tens of thousands in a bloodbath that was covertly endorsed by the U.S. government.

Skip ahead another 30 years…

The techniques and technology have become more sophisticated, but the general strategy remains identical.

The Syria crisis is swiftly escalating with the advent of yet another unverified chemical weapons attack on the civilian population that is being used as a broad permit for the Obama Administration to enter into open operations against the Assad government. A previous chemical attack at the beginning of this summer was left unverified, though the establishment went to great lengths to convince the American public that the Assad government was responsible. It certainly didn’t help that the UN was relying purely on “samples” from a French evening newspaper called Le Monde rather than an officially sanctioned source, and that the UN was forced to acknowledge that the Syrian insurgents may have been involved.

Today, the mainstream media and the U.S. government references “strong indications that Syria’s government used chemical weapons in attacks that opposition groups claimed killed more than 1,100 people” as if their version of events is already considered concrete reality:


But where are these “strong indications”? Where is this unassailable evidence of Assad’s involvement? The American public hasn’t been given a scrap of verifiable data concerning the attack and its origin. Once again, we are being asked to accept on simple “faith” that our government is telling us the truth and that military intervention must be supported.

Here is what we DO know for a fact…

The Syrian insurgency is made up primarily of Al Qaeda operatives (terrorists and criminals).


The CIA trained and supported these operatives using Bengahzi as a base for at least a year before the Bengahzi attacks.



Syrian insurgents have been caught on numerous occasions committing startling crimes, including the torture and murder of civilians, and the mutilation of prisoners and even their corpses. Captured Syrian soldiers are commonly executed.

The U.S. government continues to support the insurgents despite their death squad mentality, supplying heavy weapons including anti-aircraft missiles.


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We’ve used the analogy before, in particular to describe what happened to the Roman Empire during the latter days of its existence. Looking around various economies in the world today, the same analogy once again comes to mind. One might say that what we see these days is analogous to the more advanced stages of hypothermia.

Early hypothermia may show in nothing more than cold feet, in itself an amusing analogy perhaps. But a body that is exposed to extreme cold over longer periods of time will at some point start to exhibit symptoms such as frostbite, which are the result of the core of the body trying to save itself at the cost of the periphery, the extremities. Typically, a human body, for instance, will lose its toes first because the heart can no longer pump enough blood (heat) to them and at the same time keep the body’s core above a minimum temperature.

In our economies we see the same pattern. It is not generally looked at or even recognized, however, since 99% of us live in denial of the possibility that such a thing would even be an option. This is a direct consequence of the fact that, first, all major news makers and decision makers reside in the core, and second, that saving that core while letting the extremities die off is somehow seen as a good thing. Post-crisis policies around the globe are directed at saving the financial system, not the people the crisis has pushed into poverty. Since these people are not seen as crucial to the survival of the core, and the system as a whole, they are – almost ritually – sacrificed on the system’s economic altar.

In a reason-driven society one would expect a discussion on the viability and the intrinsic value of the system itself, but our global economic system, as I’ve said many times before, exhibits far more symptoms of a religion than a rational scheme. Our “analysis” of the system and the crises it goes through takes place in the part of our brain that deals with belief rather than rational thought. Therefore, we are bound, nay, certain, to get this wrong. You might think that a body can survive minus a few digits, but that is questionable, not in the least, to stick with the hypothermia analogy, because additional problems and afflictions such as gangrene are a major threat to the body’s ultimate survival.

In our economic systems, we see this in Europe, where a few weeks ago it was claimed that the recession was over. And while that may be sort of true according to some specific dataset, and some specific timeframe, recessions don’t of course happen in spreadsheets and datasets, they happen to real people in real streets. And if you would ask the people in the countryside in Greece or Portugal whether they feel the recession is over, we all know what the answer would be.

The core part of their nations may be suffering a bit less, but that’s only because the peripheries suffer more. This is a general pattern. Money today can only be made by taking it away from other people, who – paradoxically or not – don’t have any to begin with. Our economies only managed to “grow” in recent decades, since about the late 1970’s, because we borrowed from ourselves to buy products produced by people working for wages only a fraction of our own, and when borrowing from ourselves was no longer a viable option, arguably 10 years ago, though 30 years might ultimately prove a better estimate, we started borrowing from our own futures and those of our children. While the core, the financial and political system, which had accumulated by far the biggest part of the debt, escaped the blame and often even fortified itself by taking more and more away from the periphery.

Which is why it’s nonsense to claim Europe’s recession is over. Granted, it’s a timely claim, given that in Germany, Angela Merkel faces federal elections on September 22, and we never should have expected anything but rosy numbers to come out and support her bid, but it makes no rational sense. Germany’s numbers may look sort of alright, even if you have to wonder how much that has to do with that same election, but we’ve already seen acknowledged pre-election – in a clear sign of how confident Merkel is – that Greece needs another bailout, and there’s no way Portugal will not need one; Merkel and the ECB are just waiting for the politically least damaging timing to announce the next phases. And the Italian and Spanish populations have been forced through the austerity wringer so tightly any meaningful definition of the term “growth” won’t be applicable for a long time, if ever, to their societies.


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1185080_562489850465874_1799425451_n(Hunter S. Thompson)

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Leonardo Boff, 26/08/2013


O sequestro do Presidente da Bolívia Evo Morales, impedindo que seu avião sobrevoasse o espaço europeu e a revelação da espionagem universal por parte dos órgãos de informação e controle do governo norte-americano (NSA) nos levam a refletir sobre um tema cultural de graves consequências: a arrogância. Os fatos referidos mostram a que nível chegou a arrogância dos europeus forçadamente alinhados aos EUA. Somente foi superada pela arrogância pessoal de Hitler e do nazismo. A arrogância é um tema central da reflexão grega de onde viemos. Modernamente, foi estudada com profundidade por um pensador italiano com formação em economia, sociologia e psicologia analítica, Luigi Zoja, cujo livro foi lançado no Brasil: “História da Arrogância” (Axis Mundi, São Paulo, 2000).

Neste livro denso, se faz a história da arrogância, nas culturas mundiais, especialmente na cultura ocidental. Os pensadores gregos (filósofos e dramaturgos) notaram que a racionalidade que se libertava do mito vinha habitada por um demônio que a levaria a conhecer e a desejar ilimitadamente, num processo sem fim. Essa energia tende a romper todos os limites e terminar na arrogância, no excesso e na desmedida, o verdadeiro pecado que os deuses castigavam impiedosamente. Foi chamada de hybris: o excesso em qualquer campo da vida humana e de Nêmeses o princípio divino que pune a arrogância.

O imperativo da Grécia antiga era méden ágan: “nada de excesso”. Tucídides fará Péricles, o genial político de Atenas, dizer: “amamos o belo; mas, com frugalidade; usamos a riqueza para empreendimentos ativos, sem ostentações inúteis; para ninguém a pobreza é vergonhosa, mas é vergonhoso não fazer o possível para superá-la”. Em tudo buscavam a justa medida e autocontenção.

A ética oriental, budista e hindu, pregava a imposição de limites ao desejo. O Tao Te King já sentenciava: “não há desgraça maior do que não saber se contentar” (cap.46); “teria sido melhor ter parado antes que o copo transbordasse” (cap.9).

A hybris-excesso-arrogância é o vício maior do poder, seja pessoal, seja de um grupo, de uma ideologia ou de um Império. Hoje essa arrogância ganha corpo no Império norte-americano que a todos submete e no ideal do crescimento ilimitado que subjaz à nossa cultura e à economia política.

Esse excesso-arrogância chegou, nos dias atuais, a uma culminância em duas frentes: na vigilância ilimitada que consiste na capacidade de um poder imperial controlar, por sofisticada tecnologia cibernética, todas pessoas, violar os direitos de soberania de um país e o direito inalienável à privacidade pessoal. É um sinal de fraqueza e de medo, pois o Império não consegue mais convencer com argumentos e atrair por seus ideais. Então precisa usar a violência direta, a mentira, o desrespeito aos direitos e aos estatutos consagrados internacionalmente. Ou então as desculpas pífias e nada convincentes do Secretário de Estado norte-americano quando visitou, há dias, o Brasil. Segundo os grandes historiadores das culturas, Toynbee e Burckhard, estes são os sinais inequívocos da decadência irrefreável dos Impérios. Nada do que se funda sobre a injustiça, a mentira e a violação de direitos se sustenta. Chega o dia de sua verdade e de sua ruína. Mas ao afundarem causam estragos inimagináveis.

A segunda frente da hybris-excesso reside no sonho do crescimento ilimitado pela exploração desapiedada dos bens e serviços naturais. O Ocidente criou e exportou para todo mundo este tipo de crescimento, medido pela quantidade de bens materiais (PIB). Ele rompe com a lógica da natureza que sempre se autorregula mantendo a interdependência de todos com todos e a preservação da teia da vida. Assim uma árvore não cresce ilimitadamente até o céu; da mesma forma o ser humano conhece seus limites físicos e psíquicos. Mas esse projeto fez com que o ser humano impusesse à natureza a sua regulação arrogante que não quer reconhecer limites: assim consome até adoecer e, ao mesmo tempo procura a saúde total e a imortalidade biológica. Agora que os limites da Terra se fizeram sentir, pois se trata de um planeta pequeno e doente, força-o com novas tecnologias a produzir mais. A Terra se defende criando o aquecimento global com seus eventos extremos.


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George Mobus

Either Profits Go or We Go

Well, Actually Too Late!

What do you do when something you always thought was a good thing starts to look like the root cause of our demise? You start asking questions. And you start thinking about the evidence. That is what I’ve been doing for the past many years after seeing the evidence of failures of some of America’s most treasured institutions.

I have to be blunt. Capitalism, corporatism, and profit taking are killing the planet, or large and growing swaths of it. Politics, governance, and the education system are acting as willing accomplices to assist. Of course, it is really the people who work within these institutions who are at fault, both for shaping them to their current embodiments, and for promoting them as good and worthwhile. Ultimately we humans are at fault for being just too ignorant and unwise to see what incredible damage we are doing to the Earth and even ourselves.

I won’t recapitulate what all of the various problems are that we are causing or even entertain a conversation about them since the evidence for them is so abundant, and a little simple connecting of the dots will lead to the understanding of how they are all interconnected and will collectively exacerbate our predicament. When the planet is significantly altered beyond recognition, there is a very high likelihood that the vast majority of humanity will suffer the same fate. I and many aware writers have covered this before. Only, to what avail?

After watching this drama unfold for the last one and a half decades (and noting the accelerated pace with which it is doing so) I have drawn the conclusion that absolutely nothing can be done at this juncture to mitigate these problems. And even if it could no one with the ability to make a difference will endeavor to do so. I have given up completely on the political and business leadership in the developed world. I’ve given up on the scientific prowess of the US. I’ve given up on our education system. Put simply, there is, in my opinion, no institution or group of people who (have the power/effectiveness and) can or would make the effort to change anything that might make even a modicum of difference. There are many people who do see and do try to help, but just like me, have no influence that could conceivably reach the scale needed, at least, to lessen the pain about to be inflicted. There are many, like Bill McKibben, who have relatively high public visibility but cannot seem to move the conversation, let alone action, fast enough to have any bearing on the ultimate outcome.

At least that is what I think will be the case until it is so obvious that we are taking a leap from the high dive into an empty pool. Then, I imagine, everyone will start doing something, in panic, of course. Lots of finger pointing and rending of loin cloths, but it will be too late. Most unfortunate. This is pessimism at its worst, I admit, as well as cynicism. But I come by these attitudes honestly by having opened my eyes to what is happening and seeing what is not happening that should. And it always comes back to the same baseline. Homo sapiens should be called Homo calidus, “man the clever” and definitely not “man the wise.”

The Profit Picture

The two things that are killing us are actually variations on a single theme. They appear as biological and individual economic profit taking. The former translates into exponentially rising biomass concentrated in a single species, us. The latter translates into consumption for the sake of consumption and at whatever speed we can obtain. Both have their roots in the biology of individual organisms. Every organism that ever existed has attempted to maximize its biological profit (excess material and energy over and above that needed to maintain) in order to reproduce as much as possible. Thus we human individuals are effectively programmed to always seek to maximize our resource consumption. However, for us, due to our technological ability to consume exosomatic energies and aggregate material goods above and beyond our mere biomass, we are acting like a catalyst for a runaway process of extraction. And, extraction at rates substantially higher than nature can replenish. Worse still, at the end of consumption, the output waste streams, are coming out at rates greater than the environment can absorb. Ergo, depletion on the input end and poisoning on the output end.


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Many of us who have been paying attention to the state of the world over the last half century have now begun to realize with growing horror that the progressive deterioration we have been tracking shows no signs of resolution   In fact, to some of us it looks as though there is no way to resolve this deepening crisis. The end of the track is in sight. The planetary factory is in flames, and all the exit doors are barred.

Proposed technical solutions are utterly inadequate to the scale of the problem.  Many ideas like geoengineering will simply make matters worse.  There is no political constituency for degrowth – none at all.  There is precious little political support for even putting a light foot on the brake.  This road to Hell has been paved with the very best of intentions – giving our children a better life stands near the top of the list – but here we are nonetheless. The climate is signalling that our future may be a little warmer than we were expecting, once our seven-billion-passenger train passes those gates.

 Now that the denouement is in sight, I’m setting aside the anger and outrage, the blame and shame, to focus my attention instead on why this outcome seems to have been utterly inevitable and unstoppable.

 Why has this happened?  I don’t buy the traditional “broken morality” or “flawed genetics” arguments.  After all, our genetics seemed to be perfectly appropriate for a million years, and the elements of morality that some of us see as sub-optimal (the greed and shortsightedness) have been with us to varying degrees since before the days of Australopithecus. I don’t think it’s just a mistake on our part or a bug in the program – it appears to be a part of the program of life itself. It looks to me as though much deeper forces have been at work throughout human history, and have shaped this outcome.

 The main difficulty I have with all the technical, political, economic and social reform proposals I’ve seen is that they run counter to some very deep-seated aspects of human behavior and decision-making.  Mainly, they assume that human intelligence and analytical ability control our behavior, and from what I’ve seen, that’s simply not true.  In fact it’s untrue to such an extent that I don’t even think it’s a “human” issue per se.

 I have come to think that most of our collective choices and actions are shaped by physical forces so deep that they can’t even be called “genetic”.  I haven’t written anything definitive about this yet, but the conclusion I have come to in the last six months is that a physical principle called the “Maximum Entropy Production Principle”, which is closely related to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, actually underlies the structure of life itself.  Its operation has shaped the energy-seeking, replicative behavior of everything from bacteria to humans.  All our intelligence does is makes its operation more effective.

 This principle is behind the appearance of life in the first place, has guided the development of genetic replication and natural selection, and has embedded itself in our behavior at the very deepest level. Like all life, our mandate is simple:  survive and reproduce so as to form a metastable dissipative structure.  All of human behavior and history has been oriented towards executing this mandate as effectively as possible.  This “survive and reproduce” program springs from a universal law of physics, much like gravity. As a result it even precedes genetics as a driver of human behavior.  And lest there be any lingering doubt about the connection to our current predicament, the survival imperative is what causes all living organisms to exhibit energy-seeking behavior.  Humans just do this better than any other organism in the history of the planet because of our intelligence.

 In this context, the evolutionary fitness role of human intelligence is to act as a limit-removal mechanism, to circumvent any obstacles in the way of making make our growth in terms of energy use and reproduction more effective.  It’s why we are blind to the need for limits both as individuals (in general) and collectively as cultures.  We acknowledge limits only when they are so close as to present an immediate existential threat, as they were and are in hunter-gatherer societies. As a result we tend to make hard changes only in response to a crisis, not in advance of it.  Basically, the goal of life is to live rather than die, and to do this it must grow rather than shrink.  This imperative governs everything we think and do.

 As a result, I don’t think humanity in general will put any kind of sustainability practices in place until long after they are actually needed (i.e. after population and consumption rates have begun to crash).  I don’t think it is possible for a group as large as 7 billion people to agree that such proactive measures are necessary.  We are as blind to the need for limits as a fish is to water and for similar reasons. After the crisis has incontrovertibly begun we’ll do all kinds of things, but by then we will be hampered by the climate crisis and by severe shortages of both resources and the technology needed to use them.

 I have given up speculating on possible outcomes, because they are so inherently unpredictable, at least in detail.  But what I’m discovering about the way life works at a deep level makes me continually less optimistic.  I now think near-term human extinction (say within the next hundred years) has a significantly non-zero probability.

 Our cybernetic civilization is approaching a “Kardashev Type 0/1 boundary” and I don’t think it’s possible for us to make the jump to Type 1.  Like most other people, Kardashev misunderstood the underlying drivers of human behavior, assuming them to be a combination of ingenuity and free will.  We indeed have ingenuity, but only in the direction of growth (and damn the entropic consequences).  We can’t manage preemptive de-growth or even the application of the Precautionary Principle, because as a collective organism humanity doesn’t actually have free will (despite what it feels like to us individual humans).  Instead we exhibit an emergent behavior that is entirely oriented towards growth.

I see no purpose in wasting further physical, financial or emotional energy on trying to avoid the inevitable. Given our situation and what I think is its root cause, I generally tell people who see the unfolding crisis and want to make changes in their lives simply to follow their hearts and their personal values.  I’m not exactly advising them to “Eat, drink and be merry”, though.  You might think of it more as, “Eat, drink and be mindful.”

July, 25, 2013

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50 Filmes

Nosferatu, Murnau

Um Passeio ao Campo, Jean Renoir

O Atalante, Jean Vigo

O Peregrino, Chaplin

Tempos Modernos, Chaplin

Lifeboat, Hitchcock

Stagecoach, John Ford

Nazarin, Luis Buñuel

O Anjo Exterminador, Luis Buñuel

Citizen Kane, Orson Welles

Ladrões de Bicicletas, De Sica

Umberto D., De Sica

Alemanha, Ano Zero, Rossellini

Sunset Boulevard, Billy Wilder

O Intendente Sanshô, Mizoguchi

Contos da Lua Vaga, Mizoguchi

Viver, Kurosawa

Rashomon, Kurosawa

A Sombra do Guerreiro, Kurosawa

La Ronde, Max Ophuls

Harakiri, Masaki Kobayashi

A Saga de Anatahan, Joseph von Sternberg

Johnny Guitar, Nicholas Ray

A Harpa Birmanesa, Ichikawa

Verão de Amor, Bergman

Cenas da Vida Conjugal, Bergman

Morangos Silvestres, Bergman

Os inúteis, Fellini

Amarcord, Fellini

Pierrot le Fou, Godard

Bande à Part, Godard

Passarinhos e passarões, Pasolini

Il Posto, Ermano Olmi

Uma Mulher Sob Influência, Cassavetes

O Medo Devora a Alma, Fassbinder

O Direito do Mais Forte à Liberdade, Fassbinder

O Mercador das Quatro Estações, Fassbinder

Kes, Ken Loach

High Hopes, Mike Leigh

Palombela Rossa, Moretti

Brandos Costumes, Seixas Santos

A Comédia de Deus, César Monteiro

Close-Up, Kiarostami

Le Vent nous emportera, Kiarostami

Todas as Manhãs do Mundo, Alain Corneau

Trust, Hal Hartley

A Rapariga de Monday, Hartley

A Vida em Directo, Peter Weir

Rosetta, Jean Pierre & Luc Dardenne

Haverá sangue, P.T. Anderson

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Em resumo

Thus we are headed for a modern Dark Age: a tyrannical corporate state wielding overwhelming fire power and surveillance capabilities, a collapsing biosphere with unpredictable weather patterns and superstorms, and a blissfully ignorant population eager to find a scapegoat.

The time to avert disaster was decades ago, yet the public believes technology is a source of energy as well as a solution to every conceivable problem, that economic growth is a prerequisite to living on Earth, and that anthropocentric climate change is still debatable, if not an outright lie.

Our house is on fire and we’re still watching TV. The exit doors have all been super-glued shut with hopium and MSM propaganda. There is no place to run; the deathtrap is foolproof.

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Feeling anxious about life in a broken-down society on a stressed-out planet? That’s hardly surprising: Life as we know it is almost over. While the dominant culture encourages dysfunctional denial—pop a pill, go shopping, find your bliss—there’s a more sensible approach: Accept the anxiety, embrace the deeper anguish—and then get apocalyptic.


We are staring down multiple cascading ecological crises, struggling with political and economic institutions that are unable even to acknowledge, let alone cope with, the threats to the human family and the larger living world. We are intensifying an assault on the ecosystems in which we live, undermining the ability of that living world to sustain a large-scale human presence into the future. When all the world darkens, looking on the bright side is not a virtue but a sign of irrationality.


In these circumstances, anxiety is rational and anguish is healthy, signs not of weakness but of courage. A deep grief over what we are losing—and have already lost, perhaps never to be recovered—is appropriate. Instead of repressing these emotions we can confront them, not as isolated individuals but collectively, not only for our own mental health but to increase the effectiveness of our organizing for the social justice and ecological sustainability still within our grasp. Once we’ve sorted through those reactions, we can get apocalyptic and get down to our real work.


Perhaps that sounds odd, since we are routinely advised to overcome our fears and not give in to despair. Endorsing apocalypticism seems even stranger, given associations with “end-timer” religious reactionaries and “doomer” secular survivalists. People with critical sensibilities, those concerned about justice and sustainability, think of ourselves as realistic and less likely to fall for either theological or science-fiction fantasies.


Many associate “apocalypse” with the rapture-ranting that grows out of some interpretations of the Christian Book of Revelation (aka, the Apocalypse of John), but it’s helpful to remember that the word’s original meaning is not “end of the world.” “Revelation” from Latin and “apocalypse” from Greek both mean a lifting of the veil, a disclosure of something hidden, a coming to clarity. Speaking apocalyptically, in this sense, can deepen our understanding of the crises and help us see through the many illusions that powerful people and institutions create.


But there is an ending we have to confront. Once we’ve honestly faced the crises, then we can deal with what is ending—not all the world, but the systems that currently structure our lives. Life as we know it is, indeed, coming to an end.

Let’s start with the illusions
: Some stories we have told ourselves—claims by white people, men, or U.S. citizens that domination is natural and appropriate—are relatively easy to debunk (though many cling to them). Other delusional assertions—such as the claim that capitalism is compatible with basic moral principles, meaningful democracy, and ecological sustainability—require more effort to take apart (perhaps because there seems to be no alternative).


“Apocalypse” need not involve heavenly rescue fantasies or tough-guy survival talk; to get apocalyptic means seeing clearly and recommitting to core values.


But toughest to dislodge may be the central illusion of the industrial world’s extractive economy: that we can maintain indefinitely a large-scale human presence on the earth at something like current First-World levels of consumption. The task for those with critical sensibilities is not just to resist oppressive social norms and illegitimate authority, but to speak a simple truth that almost no one wants to acknowledge: The high-energy/high-technology life of affluent societies is a dead end. We can’t predict with precision how resource competition and ecological degradation will play out in the coming decades, but it is ecocidal to treat the planet as nothing more than a mine from which we extract and a landfill into which we dump. We cannot know for sure what time the party will end, but the party’s over.


Does that seem histrionic? Excessively alarmist? Look at any crucial measure of the health of the ecosphere in which we live—groundwater depletion, topsoil loss, chemical contamination, increased toxicity in our own bodies, the number and size of “dead zones” in the oceans, accelerating extinction of species, and reduction of biodiversity—and ask a simple question: Where are we heading?


Remember also that we live in an oil-based world that is rapidly depleting the cheap and easily accessible oil, which means we face a major reconfiguration of the infrastructure that undergirds daily life. Meanwhile, the desperation to avoid that reconfiguration has brought us to the era of “extreme energy,” using ever more dangerous and destructive technologies (hydrofracturing, deep-water drilling, mountaintop coal removal, tar sands extraction).


Oh, did I forget to mention the undeniable trajectory of global warming/climate change/climate disruption?


Scientists these days are talking about tipping points and planetary boundaries, about how human activity is pushing Earth beyond its limits. Recently 22 top scientists warned that humans likely are forcing a planetary-scale critical transition “with the potential to transform Earth rapidly and irreversibly into a state unknown in human experience,” which means that “the biological resources we take for granted at present may be subject to rapid and unpredictable transformations within a few human generations.”


That conclusion is the product of science and common sense, not supernatural beliefs or conspiracy theories. The political/social implications are clear: There are no solutions to our problems if we insist on maintaining the high-energy/high-technology existence lived in much of the industrialized world (and desired by many currently excluded from it). Many tough-minded folk who are willing to challenge other oppressive systems hold on tightly to this lifestyle. The critic Fredric Jameson has written, “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism,” but that’s only part of the problem—for some, it may be easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of air conditioning.

We do live in end-times, of a sort. Not the end of the world—the planet will carry on with or without us—but the end of the human systems that structure our politics, economics, and social life. “Apocalypse” need not involve heavenly rescue fantasies or tough-guy survival talk; to get apocalyptic means seeing clearly and recommitting to core values.


Never in human history have potential catastrophes been so global; never have social and ecological crises of this scale threatened at the same time …


First, we must affirm the value of our work for justice and sustainability, even though there is no guarantee we can change the disastrous course of contemporary society. We take on projects that we know may fail because it’s the right thing to do, and by doing so we create new possibilities for ourselves and the world. Just as we all know that someday we will die and yet still get out of bed every day, an honest account of planetary reality need not paralyze us.


Then let’s abandon worn-out clichés such as, “The American people will do the right thing if they know the truth,” or “Past social movements prove the impossible can happen.”


There is no evidence that awareness of injustice will automatically lead U.S. citizens, or anyone else, to correct it. When people believe injustice is necessary to maintain their material comfort, some accept those conditions without complaint.


Social movements around race, gender, and sexuality have been successful in changing oppressive laws and practices, and to a lesser degree in shifting deeply held beliefs. But the movements we most often celebrate, such as the post-World War II civil rights struggle, operated in a culture that assumed continuing economic expansion. We now live in a time of permanent contraction—there will be less, not more, of everything. Pressuring a dominant group to surrender some privileges when there is an expectation of endless bounty is a very different project than when there is intensified competition for resources. That doesn’t mean nothing can be done to advance justice and sustainability, only that we should not be glib about the inevitability of it.


Here’s another cliché to jettison: Necessity is the mother of invention. During the industrial era, humans exploiting new supplies of concentrated energy have generated unprecedented technological innovation in a brief time. But there is no guarantee that there are technological fixes to all our problems; we live in a system that has physical limits, and the evidence suggests we are close to those limits. Technological fundamentalism—the quasi-religious belief that the use of advanced technology is always appropriate, and that any problems caused by the unintended consequences can be remedied by more technology—is as empty a promise as other fundamentalisms.

If all this seems like more than one can bear, it’s because it is.
We are facing new, more expansive challenges. Never in human history have potential catastrophes been so global; never have social and ecological crises of this scale threatened at the same time; never have we had so much information about the threats we must come to terms with.


It’s easy to cover up our inability to face this by projecting it onto others. When someone tells me “I agree with your assessment, but people can’t handle it,” I assume what that person really means is, “I can’t handle it.” But handling it is, in the end, the only sensible choice.


Mainstream politicians will continue to protect existing systems of power, corporate executives will continue to maximize profit without concern, and the majority of people will continue to avoid these questions. It’s the job of people with critical sensibilities—those who consistently speak out for justice and sustainability, even when it’s difficult—not to back away just because the world has grown more ominous.


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António Turiel




Hace unos días el Fondo Monetario Internacional (uno de los garantes del préstamo que apuntala el Reino de España, por si no lo sabían) planteó su receta para ayudar a España a crear empleo. El FMI plantea un gran acuerdo entre la patronal y los trabajadores de modo que los trabajadores aceptarían una reducción de salarios del 10% nominal y al tiempo la patronal aceptaría crear más empleo. La medida vendría acompañada de una reducción de las cotizaciones a la seguridad social del 1,7% que se compensarían con una posterior subida del IVA. Según las simulaciones del FMI, si se hacen estos cambios mientras aumenta el empleo y disminuye la inflación, el poder adquisitivo de los hogares no disminuirá.

Fíjense que no se está planteando una receta para sacar a España de la recesión ni de la crisis económica que ya dura seis años; su análisis apunta a una subida del PIB del 5% en cinco años (un magro 1% anual) y consiguiendo el milagro de aumentar la población ocupada un 7% (recuerden que en España la tasa de paro es de un escalofriante 26% de la población activa). Y digo milagro porque es conocido que en España no se ha creado empleo en las últimas décadas más que cuando el crecimiento del PIB ha sido al menos del 2% anual. El FMI parece confiar en que las reformas en marcha y las que proponen llevarán a un cambio estructural tan importante que cambiarán esa característica de nuestra economía.

Pero fijémonos en la letra no tan pequeña: de acuerdo con el escenario que se plantea el FMI los precios se tendrían que reducir un 5% en dos años. Dado que se habla de una reducción nominal del salario del 10% eso implicaría una reducción del salario en términos reales de sólo el 5%, así que esta deflación no es un detalle menor sino un aspecto clave para poder mantener el consumo y así impulsar la actividad económica (recuperar el crecimiento económico, que es la única idea que hay para poder salir de la crisis). Pero, ¿cómo podrían disminuir los precios, si justamente estamos en un escenario de restricción creciente en el acceso a nuestra principal fuente de energía, el petróleo? En realidad sólo hay una manera realmente accesible para que los precios bajen: por medio de la caída del consumo que probablemente se acabará materializando al agravarse la crisis (aunque eso no garantiza que los precios bajen). Y en el momento oportuno, después de los dos primeros años de implantación de este plan, llegaría la subida del IVA (que no se cuantifica pero se deja claro que se haría por la vía de subir el tipo reducido al general, 11 puntos nada menos, en los productos más básicos, lo cual perjudica especialmente a la población con menor nivel de renta).

Después de lo expuesto más arriba está claro lo que va a pasar: si el FMI presiona suficientemente al Gobierno español (y por lo que se ve va por buen camino) y éste acaba implementando esta reforma, se acabaría suscribiendo un gran pacto entre la patronal y los sindicatos y por lo pronto los salarios se reducirían un 10%… pero la inflación seguiría creciendo, lo cual echa al traste el resto del escenario del FMI. Las medidas propuestas agravarían aún más la situación de los trabajadores pero a cambio, al reducirse los costes salariales, darían un poco de oxígeno a las empresas… sobre el papel. Porque si algo evidencia algunas de las medidas que se están tomando en muchos países occidentales para combatir esta crisis es que hay un cierto grado de esquizofrenia corporativa, puesto que los que toman estas medidas no entienden que los trabajadores también son consumidores, y que si reduces el salario a los trabajadores estás reduciendo la renta disponible a los consumidores que tienen que comprar esos mismos productos y servicios que están produciendo. Por tanto, las empresas no mejorarían sus balances, y no contratarían más personal, mientras el consumo continuaría cayendo y la crisis agravándose. Así pues que las medidas del FMI no sólo no reducirían el paro sino que lo acabarían aumentando y acelerarían la decadencia de España dentro de esta crisis que, de todos modos, no acabará nunca.

En realidad nada de esto es nuevo: hace unos diez años el FMI propuso las mismas recetas para sacar a Argentina de su profunda crisis económica de entonces. El país andino aplicó como un buen alumno todas las recetas punto por punto y como consecuencia se sumió en la crisis más grave de las últimas décadas y una de las más graves de sus historia, de donde sólo pudo salir unos cuantos años después gracias al aumento de sus exportaciones (y por lo que parece no de manera duradera).

Con todo, a mi lo que me parece más destacable de la medida que pretende aplicar el FMI es que contiene una cierta dosis de chantaje emocional al trabajador, que creo que se usará mucho para tratar de hacer tragar esta reforma. De manera implícita se está haciendo una apelación a la solidaridad entre los trabajadores: si tú renuncias al 10% de tu sueldo y otros ocho trabajadores hacen lo mismo podríamos contratar a otro trabajador más. En suma, dado que el trabajo se ha vuelto un bien precioso y cada vez más escaso lo que se propone resuena con una idea que planea en el debate político desde hace 40 años: el reparto del trabajo. Para algunos sectores políticos de izquierda el debate sobre el reparto del trabajo puede parecer pasado de moda y hasta cierto punto reaccionario: en vez de buscar la reducción de horas de trabajo a cambio del mismo sueldo – aumentando así la retribución por hora – lo que pretende el reparto del trabajo es compartir el trabajo disponible entre los trabajadores, pero sin aumentar la retribución por hora. Se tiene que tener en cuenta que, en términos reales, los salarios en España llevan prácticamente estancados desde hace 20 años, como muestran los datos de la Comisión Europea:


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